Monday, November 26, 2018

The Exodus from Homeworld

The Exodus from Homeworld
Early in the rise of human civilization, several other races of Homeworld—including the elves, dwarves, dragons, genies and giants—recognized that this race, with its short lives but rapid count of generations, could overrun life on that planet. For that reason, having learned of and even practiced aetherial travel, those others decided to start new colonies in other locations. Detailed below are some of the most notable examples.
  • Elves built bigger and bigger aetherships, exploring first the moons of Thunar and Kronos, and eventually exploring beyond the limits of the Sol System. Using their arkships they transported animal life with which to craft new ecosystems, too. Currently their most notable settlement is Starfort Station on Eceladus.
  • Dwarves developed small vessels that they could use to tow asteroids as mobile mining and smithing facilities, and thus began to explore the valuable ores of the Belt.
  • The giants used stolen ships and teams of slaves to build new strongholds on the planet Wodan, staying to the regions on the boundary between intolerable heat and extreme cold, but using groundling aetherships drawn by beasts of burden to explore other areas.
  • Using their magic, the genies began carving dwellings from the floating rock islands of the planet Freya.
  • Finally, the dragons found a new world to settle as their own, via their exploration of the strange tunnel-like disturbances that would come to be known as wyrmholes. It should also be noted that they took various tribes of kobolds with them, along with dragon-blooded humanoids (particularly sorcerers) and half-dragon spawned creatures.

Not all the races of Homeworld departed, of course.
  • For the most part, the various humanoid races—goblins, orcs, hobgoblins and the like—were left behind because other races would not share with them the secrets of constructing and utilizing aetherships.
  • The drakes, being less intelligent and powerful, and thus not so ambitious as other types of dragons, did not depart, but instead stepped into some of the positions vacated by their distant and disappearing kin. 
  • Eastern dragons, on the other hand, chose not to leave because they have a different type of interaction with people in that part of Homeworld from that of their relations in the west.
  • The gnomes were split into two separate factions, those who retreated into the wild, fey regions of Homeworld, and those who wished to stay closer to human society due to their fascination with emerging technological developments.
  • Halflings chose to stay close to human society, too, since they feel pretty comfortable in it.
  • Certain offshoots of races that had grown accustomed to living deep underground—such as the duergar, derro and svirfneblin—also missed out on chances to leave Homeworld, but due to their distance from civilized society also did not wish to emigrate.
  • The same goes for underwater races such as the merfolk, locathah and sahuagin, which could go about their lives with little danger of disruption.
  • Some types of creatures, especially undead, choose to continue residing on Homeworld in secret—but one can only imagine the terrible possibilities if they should ever seek to create new colonies of their own on other planets or in deep space.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

South of the Border

This post begins to expand the scope of these adventures, taking the PCs down to Old Mexico.


Little Raven is a Dakota boy who, deciding to eschew the lifestyle of white settlers, tried to steal a collection of items taken from those of his people who'd given up their traditional ways. During his flight with the relics, he was wounded; eventually, succumbing to his wounds, he was brought into the care of a frontier doctor, Mordecai Smith. While the doctor's ministrations helped him recover, when Mordecai learned that Little Raven was a thief, he arranged to kill him and give his severed hand to his wife, Angelica. She used the limb to create a Hand of Glory, a magical item that can be used in finding lost treasures. 

Recently Little Raven's spirit (a haint), unable to find eternal rest because his body is not whole, recruited a band of adventurers to help him recover the lost relics. That wasn't enough to help him reach the afterlife, however; he needs to regain his hand, and have it be interred with the rest of his body. That is why he needs help from a band of adventurers (some would say outlaws) to recover the lost limb from a Pinkerton treasure hunter who's taken it down to Mexico.

The Dead Man's Hand
For more information about Little Raven, please refer to the following short story.

Adventure Synopsis
This adventure begins when the PCs, in trying to help Little Raven's ghost recover his body's missing hand, learn that it was crafted into a Hand of Glory and that the relic is being used by Alexandra Flynn on a mission to Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. In order to reclaim that appendage, the PCs must sail from Galveston, across the Gulf of Mexico, to the village of Acumal. There they can equip themselves for an inland expedition and head into the jungle. During the journey they face numerous natural hazards before arriving at a long-forgotten pyramid, which is still occupied by a priest, dedicated to the old gods, who practices blood sacrifice. It is he who holds Flynn prisoner, and whom the PCs must defeat if they want to complete their quest. Of course, there's still the matter of who employed her for her mission, and what they intend to do with a device that allows them to divine the very secrets of the world around them.

For the Gun Master
Alexandra Flynn has headed out to the Yucatan Peninsula, following rumors of an old Mayan pyramid believed to contain a relic called an obsidian mirror—a device that can be used for scrying in the same manner as a crystal ball. She'd also heard about the preist who was known still to inhabit the place, but assumed that she could outwit him.
Now she knows better.
The PCs can ride to the rescue, of course. What they don't know is that she is working for the Sisters of Salem, a group of women dedicated to exploring the occult secrets of the world and using them to strengthen women's place in it.

Involving the Heroes
As mentioned above, the most likely reason for the PCs to become involved int his business is because they are contacted by the ghost of Little Raven, an Indian boy who stole relics from the American authorities, but who was betrayed by Dr. Mordecai Smith. If that is not the case, then they could learn about this business through an intercepted letter or by a similar means.

Scene 1—Sailing the Sea
Assuming that the PCs have been dragged into this business by one means or another, the adventure begins when they are in Galveston, Texas, preparing to sail for Mexico. It doesn't take a Streetwise check to find a a ship for hire, a trim little bark called the Intrepid and captained by one Edward Danielson. He asks for $60 per character to book the charter, , each way, promising to provide food and water for the relatively short journey. Characters who succeed at a Persuasion check can talk him down to a price of $40 each way. As long as they reach an agreement, the PCs can board the vessel with any baggage, find their quarters, and prepare to set sail.

Captain Edward Danielson
Captain Danielson is a daring soul, willing to take anyone anywhere—if the price is right. He has a sense of adventure, too, but is not willing to risk his ship or his crew without there being a suitable profit to turn. To those who win his respect he is a true friend.
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d4, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Boating d8, Climbing d4, Fighting d4, Notice d4, Shooting d4, Survival d4, Swimming d4
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 4, Toughness: 5
Edges: Brave
Hindrances: Poverty
Gear: Functional clothes, Colt Navy Pistol (Range 12/24/48, Damage 2d6, RoF 1), folding knife (Damage Str + d4, Parry -1, -2 to be Noticed if hidden).

These hands are a little rough around the edges, but they know their jobs. They aren't much for social niceties like conversation, but they know how to keep a vessel in good order and have the experience to handle most crises.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d4, Spirit d4, Strength d8, Vigor d8
Skills: Boating d4, Climbing d6, Fighting d6, Notice d4, Shooting d4, Swimming d6
Charisma: -2, Pace: 6”, Parry: 5, Toughness: 7
Edges: Brawny
Hindrances: Mean
Gear: Clothing, folding knife (Damage Str + d4, Parry -1, -2 to be Noticed if hidden), flask of rum.

The Intrepid has a raised sterncastle (1) from which the ship is steered, along with an open main deck (2). Beneath the sterncastle are two cabins for passengers (3 and 4) along with the captain's own cabin (5). The lower deck is divided into two separate areas, the crew's quarters (6) and the cargo hold (7). Because the vessel has limited cabin space, some of the PCs may need to sleep in hammocks down in the crew's quarters on the lower deck. Note, too, that any oversized equipment the PCs bring with them is stored in the hold.

A Storm at Sea
For the most part, the voyage across the Gulf of Mexico is uneventful. The exception to that is a storm, which comes up when the Intrepid is in the middle of the crossing. Dealing with it involves the following elements
  • Seeing the storm coming, Captain Danielson advises the PCs to stay in their quarters; he is confident that his crew can handle things.
  • As the ship begins to pitch and roll with the waves, and the wind howls through the rigging, it should become apparent to the characters that this is a particularly bad storm.
  • Next the characters hear a terrible wooden groan, followed by cracking and splintering; that is the sound of the mainmast collapsing. Then the Intrepid lurches to starboard and Captain Danielson lets loose a string of serious curses.
  • The collapsed mast, which is still partly attached to the bark, acts as a sea anchor, dragging the Intrepid almost to a halt. Because of it, waves begin crashing up onto the main deck, threatening to flood and eventually sink the ship.
  • That, then, sets up a Dramatic Task—cutting away the fallen mast before the vessel founders. To resolve it, one or more of the PCs must succeed at five attacks with suitable weapons (axes or similar blades). Keep in mind that attacks on the mast suffer a -2 penalty due to the slippery deck, blowing wind and the like.
  • To reach the mainmast, characters must make Strength or Agility checks, depending on whether they're able to hold onto the ship's rail or are crossing open deck. Failure means the character is knocked prone by a wave, and is pushed 1d6 squares aft and starboard—and possibly, thus, down the stairwell to the lower deck.
  • As always, the GM may need to adjudicate for any unusual strategies or magical powers that the PCs might employ.

Scene 2—Akumal
Upon arrival at the little village on the coast of the Yucatan, the PCs can rest and recover while Captain Danielson works on replacing the lost mast. Even so, the village has little by the way of creature comforts; it mainly of small houses (1), along with three platforms for gutting and preparing fish (2), and a cantina (3). If they are looking for lodging, the PCs would probably do best to stay aboard the Intrepid.

The Survivor
There is one source of information about the pyramid and its mad inhabitant; it is a local hunter named Jorge, who was captured by Shadow Jaguar and held prisoner for a time, but managed to escape. Jorge can provide the following information.
  • The pyramid lies some twenty miles into the peninsula's interior, pretty much due east of Akumal.
  • Its sole inhabitant is a Mayan priest, one who wears a “skin cloak” and who captured Jorge and kept him, possibly for use as a sacrifice.
  • The priest is known as Shadow Jaguar.
  • After he escaped, Jorge told his story to anyone who would listen—usually for a free drink or two—and eventually was contacted by Alexandra Flynn, who interviewed him before outfitting and setting out into the jungle.
  • That was a month ago, now, and she has not returned.
  • Jorge figures that she is dead, unless the evil priest is keeping her for evil purposes.
Finally, if pressed—possibly via a Persuasion or Intimidate check, or bribery—Jorge admits that he was intended for a ritual sacrifice, but Shadow Jaguar seemed to find him lacking for some reason. Anyway, how about another drink?

Armed with this information, the PCs can procure what items they seek that are available in this little village. That can include clothing, food, and melee weapons, along with general provisions at the GMs' discretion. Other ranged weapons are also available, but rifles and shotguns cost twice the usual amount and there are not pistols. Neither can the PCs find dynamite or other explosives or blasting gear. Finally, the PCs can persuade Jorge to join them with either a raise on a Persuasion or Intimidate check, or a combination of the two without raises, or through suitable bribery. As always, the GM should assign bonuses or penalties for good roleplaying or reasoning.

Scene 3—Into the Jungle
Once they've made their preparations, the PCs can head into the depths of the Yucatan Peninsula. This can be as uneventful or fraught with peril as the GM and players desire, but some of the following encounters are possible.
  • At some point the PCs run into a constrictor snake that tries to envelop one of their party members; refer to page 140 in the core rulebook for stats.
  • In another location a swarm of army ants erupts from the ground to feed upon the PCs; refer to page 141 for stats.
  • It's important to note how much clean water the PCs brought with them for drinking; because of the heat, they need to be drinking four quarts each per day. Failing that, they need to make Vigor rolls as per the rules on page 88 of the core rulebook.
  • The same goes for food, as detailed on page 89.

Finally, this lengthy trek through the jungle could also provide an opportunity for an interlude, as detailed on page 91 of the core rulebook.

Scene 4—The Pyramid
In the heart of the jungle lies the ancient Mayan pyramid inhabited by Shadow Jaguar. It might see unoccupied and even unguarded at first glance, but that is far from the case; refer to the map below for the following location descriptions.

1. Exterior—Stairs
On the outside surface of the pyramid, for sets of steep stairs lead from the ground up to the platform at the top of the pyramid.

2. Rooftop Platform
This open platform was once used for sacrifices. There is a stone table in the middle of it, with a hole beneath it leading into the central shaft in which blood and bones have collected. Additionally, a loose stone in the floor (Notice check to find and Strength check to lift) reveals a shaft and ladder that provide access to the pyramid's interior.

3. High Priest's Quarters
Once this room was frequently used for sacrifices; now Shadow Jaguar makes use of it only when the occasional victim stumbles across his path.

4. Puzzle Room
Four stone pedestals, each waist-high, occupy the outside corners of the four sections in this room. A Notice check reveals that a circular portion in the center of each can be pressed downward. Although the PCs probably won't recognize the fact right away, these correspond with the four urns from Area 11, below. Additionally, characters who succeed at Boating or Survival checks can recognize that the temple is aligned to the four cardinal directions—although the importance of this may not become apparent until later. Note also that, without the urns from Area 11, putting the incorrect amount of pressure on a pedestal triggers a projectile dart trap with Shooting d6 that inflicts 2d6 damage.

5. Chamber of Altars
The walls of this chamber are engraved with bas reliefs depicting various Mayan deities. In front of each sits a small, raised stone platform on which offerings were once placed. A Notice check at a -2 penalty, or a Healing or Survival check, reveals that some of them are stained with blood—stains that are old, but not that old.

6. Storage Room
A broad stone shelf fills the outside wall of this room. While it holds baskets, gourds and pots, their contents have long since spoiled.

7. Junior Priests' Quarters
Four more stone beds stand against the walls of this section. One is occupied by a figure who sits up as the heroes approach, and then screams and attacks them.

8. Hearth
The outside corner of this room contains a recess intended to be used for building fires. A cleverly concealed channel in the wall allows smoke to escape the temple's interior.

9. Prisoner's Cells
At one time, prisoners intended for sacrifice were kept here, tied to the walls. Outside of one skeleton, however, most of the cells now stand empty—except for the one in which Alexandra Flynn is chained.

Alexandra Flynn—Use the stats for a Pinkerton from page 85 of the Sixth Gun RPG rulebook.

10. Crypt
In many ways, this room resembles the storage area, above. The chief difference is that it is filled with urns containing the remains of former priests.
11. Treasury
At first glance, this area is nothing more than a solid wall. In front of it sit four statues depicting divine figures, each with a different color—red, yellow, blue and white. A Notice check reveals that there are doors leading through the wall, but there is no visible means of opening them. The trick here is to remember the pedestals in Room 4, above. The different colors, according to the Maya, correspond with the four directions:

White = North East = Red South = Yellow West = Blue

That fact—which can be recognized with an appropriate Knowledge check, or by asking Flynn or Shadow Janguar—along with the fact that the four pedestals in Room 4 are aligned to the cardinal directions, can be used to open the Treasury. If they do manage to open it, the heroes find that it contains the Onyx Mirror.

The Onyx Mirror
This flat circle of polished, black, mirror-like stone grants the one who possesses it the ability to see other places and times. In game terms, characters without the Arcane Background (Shamanism) gain the use of Farsight power, although the Tribal Medicine check is made at a -2 penalty. Those who have that background, but not the power itself, make the check without a penalty. Finally, those who have the background and the power make their checks with a +2 bonus. Keep in mind that failure for any of these characters still causes Backlash.

12. Calendar Room
The outside corner of this area is filled with a massive calendar stone, a complicated affair that was once used for timekeeping but that is now covered in cobwebs.

13. Bone Pile
This is where the Mayan priests once dumped their refuse, and where the madman now does so. Although there is nothing of interest here, characters who make Climbing checks to investigate it are met by a rat swarm to reward their efforts.

Rat Swarm—Refer to page 141 in the core rulebook for details.

At a dramatically appropriate moment after the PCs have had time to explore the pyramid's interior, Shadow Jaguar returns. He makes Stealth checks opposed to the PCs' Notice efforts; the PCs suffer -2 penalties as he enters on the fourth level, -1 on the third level, and nothing on the second level. In this he is accompanied by his pet panther, which slinks down the ladder behind him.
When they're ready to engage the PCs, Shadow Jaguar opens up with Fear and then invokes Smite, while his panther tries to slip around the PCs in order to flank them. Then both man and beast close for melee combat, which they fight to the death.

Shadow Jaguar
This priest, dedicated to old gods who've mostly been forgotten in the modern world, has descended into madness. Now he continues to perform the ancient rituals, becoming more and more bloodthirsty in the hope that one day those deities will make themselves known again, bringing more followers to his temple.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d4, Spirit d8, Strength d8, Vigor d6
Skills: Climbing d4, Fighting d6, Notice d6, Stealth d4, Survival d6, Tribal Medicine d8
Charisma: -2, Pace: 6”, Parry: 5, Toughness: 5
Edges: Arcane Background (Shamanism)
Hindrances: Bloodthirsty, Ugly
Special Abilities
Power Points: 10; Powers: Fear, Smite.
Gear: Clothing, crude axe (Damage Str + d6).

Panther—Use the stats for a werepanther from page 78 of the Sixth Gun RPG, but without the Immunity and Weakness (Silver) special abilities.

As long as the PCs succeed in defeating Shadow Jaguar and rescuing Alexandra Flynn, then they have won a victory and can claim the Onyx Mirror for themselves. While it is Flynn who traced rumors of it to the Yucatan, it is the PCs who managed to recover it. For that reason, she is willing to let them decide what should be done with it. Even if they want to deliver it to her buyers, they may want to try using it themselves.

Further Adventures
Even though this business is concluded, there are other opportunities for adventure related to it; they include the following possibilities.
  • First there is the fact that Flynn possesses the Hand of Glory, on loan to her from the Smiths. That is a useful tool in its own right, and especially when it comes to seeking other lost treasures.
  • Of course, if the PCs participated in the events of “Restless Spirits,” then the ghost of Little Raven has some interest in what happens to the hand, since he cannot find eternal rest until it is reunited with the rest of his body.
  • There, too, if the PCs participated in “Hell to Pay” and the other scenarios leading up to it, then the balance of power at Smith's Crossing could have been dramatically altered by developments in the aftermath of those events.
  • Given the interest that the Sisters of Salem have in discovering new relics and eldritch lore, they might hire the PCs for other such investigations.
  • One or more characters might also be tempted to go looking for visions from the Onyx Mirror. This could be used to introduce all manner of new plot hooks, based on information that the PCs seek for themselves, or other illumination granted by the GM—as fits the desires of the players and the needs of the campaign.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Con of the North 2019

For those who don't frequent the Twin Cities (MN) area, there's a local convention called Con of the North. It focuses on gaming, with all manner of board games, card games, miniatures games, and RPGs. This year it runs from Friday to Sunday, the 15th to 17th of February.

For those who do know about the Con, I thought I'd mention that I'll be running two different Aetherial Adventures scenarios, the first in three slots on Saturday and the second is as many on Sunday.

They're pirate-themed adventures; "No Prey, No Pay" is for Saturday, and "Soldiers of Fortune runs on Sunday.


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Formian Insectoids Breeding and Usage

This post details the ways in which Formians use other insects to do their work.


Formian Insectoids Breeding and Usage
Given the time that they have spent as nomads following the destruction of their Hiveworld, it should come as no surprise that the formians possess little by way of manufactured artifacts. Outside of their elaborate stoneships, in fact, they seldom use any tools or other equipment. Instead, the formians rely on specially bred insects to handle many routine tasks. What is more, they've even prepared some strains for use as weapons on land or in space.
Presented below are recommendations for ways that insects detailed in the various Bestiary supplements can be used by the formians.
  • Ankhegs (Bestiary, page 15)—Bred as attack animals, these insectoids are also prized for the acid that they produce, which the Formians harvest for alchemical experimentation.
  • Giant ants (Bestiary, page 16)—The Formians use these pony-sized insects as beasts of burden, for hauling materials and equipment.
  • Army ant swarms (Bestiary, page 16)—These are a potent weapon for the Formians, and they have devised various implements for catapulting them aboard enemy aetherships.
  • Fire beetles (Bestiary, page 33)—The Formians use them for illumination.
  • Giant mantises (Bestiary, page 200)—These are favored pets of the Formians, who view these insectoids with something akin to religious adoration.
  • Giant wasps (Bestiary, page 275)—Those of the mud dauber variety are prized by the Formians because they help secure passengers aboard stoneships for long-distance voyages, such as when vessels are being launched toward new solar systems for exploration.
  • Giant bee and giant queen bee (Bestiary 2, page 43)—In territory controlled by the Formians, these insects are used to produce food, in the form of honey and royal jelly.
  • Goliath stag beetle and slicer beetle (Bestiary 2, page 44)—Both of these varieties are bred for use as attack animals.
  • Giant cockroaches and cockroach swarms (Bestiary 2, page 58)—These insects also serve as weapons when unleashed upon enemies.
  • Hellwasp swarm (Bestiary 3, page 146)—The Formians are intrigued by this vicious breed of wasps, spawned on another plane, but as yet have not tried to collect them for use in battle.
  • Giant locusts and locust swarms (Bestiary 4, page 183)—When they decide to conquer a world, the Formians use these insectoids to attack and denude enemy territory, consuming any possible food for opposing armies.
  • Locust plague swarm (Bestiary 5, pages 192-3)—This is the most fearsome weapon in the Formians' arsenal, a mass of voracious insects that can destroy almost anything in its path.
  • Knight ants and megapon ants (Bestiary 5, page 16)—These advanced breeds are used as guard animals in Formian hives.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Traitor's End Review

This scenario, Part 6 of the Return to Freeport campaign, was released back in October. It is the finale for the series, following the PCs as they return to Freeport after their big fleet battle to seek the traitor who was colluding with the Mazin invaders. 

On a positive note, it features a solidly written investigation that can succeed via multiple paths and that takes the PCs to numerous interesting locations throughout the city. The author did a good job of creating new locations, ones that are different from the usual tropes of the docs, taverns and the like. The scenario also includes a chase scene, using rules from the GameMastery Guide, and the combats feature a variety of interesting opponents. There's a good puzzle, too, which something that I think not enough scenarios feature. Finally, part of the adventure includes a celebration of Drac's Fall, which can be an homage to previous PCs who participated in the original Freeport trilogy. 

Being critical, I think the scenario feels a little disconnected from the previous ones, since the big engagement with the Mazin has already been foiled. There's a solid threat presented by the primary antagonist, and the end location makes for a dramatic confrontation and battle. Even so, the fact that it takes place on a shadowy demi-plane that seems like Freeport is a little weird, given that there's already an alternate version of the city—Freetown—existing in the Abyss, as detailed in the adventure Hell in Freeport. I also worry that some of the scenes don't take into account flying characters, which seem to be pretty common at high levels. 

All in all, I think it will be fun.


Wednesday, November 7, 2018


This post introduces a new faction for use with the Sixth Gun RPG, a group known as the Sisters of Salem.


The production of a stage play has its own kind of magic, being a combination of emotional acting, elaborate costumes and scenery, music, and even special visual and auditory effects. What few people know, however, is that some theater troupes push beyond such imaginative magic into the actual practice of the arcane arts, using full-blown sorcery to gain influence over the audience. Such is the case with a group known as the Caliban Company, which is a front for a coven of witches.

Galveston, Texas
The Company's theater, modeled after the Globe Theatre in London, is located in the bustling city of Galveston, Texas, on the western side of town.

The New World Theater
Refer to the map below for the following location details.

1. Entry
Broad double doors provide an entrance to the theater. They are locked at times when no rehearsals or performances are taking place (details); otherwise, they are open to the public.

2. Courtyard
This open area has no roof overhead, and the floor is nothing more than packed earth. Visitors may pay a much smaller sum to stand here, and such individuals are known as groundlings.

3. Gallery
Most of the people who attend shows at the theater stand in this area, with a railing in front of them and a roof over their heads. There are also stairs that lead up to the second and third levels.

4. The Stage
This area is raised five feet above ground level. There are a number of trapdoors that provided access to the under-stage area, along with doors leading to the backstage part of the theater. What is more, a curtained alcove provides an area for actors who need to make dramatic entrances during particular scenes.

5. Backstage
During productions, the actors and stage hands who are involved can ready themselves back here, and a show's director is almost always present. The ground level opens directly onto the stage, while the second level features a balcony for certain dramatic scenes. The top level is generally used for storage, including old costumes and props and the like.

6. Under-Stage
In order to make certain special effects work, there are a number of trapdoors that lead down to this area. The spiral stairs from the backstage area also lead down here. 

The Sisters of Salem and the Caliban Company
As European explorers and settlers began exploring the North American continent, they opened up myriad opportunities for those who were willing and able to take advantage of them. Indeed, many were able to find their place in a new society, one that was—in theory, at least—less bound by ideas of class, religion, and other cultural biases. Adding to that sense of optimism was the fact that a woman was the supreme sovereign of England—Queen Elizabeth, who commanded artists such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe; an occultist like John Dee; and exploring sea captains such as Francis Drake, Martin Frobisher and Walter Raleigh. One could be excused for thinking that the horizons of possibility in women's lives were expanding beyond anything previously known. 

The truth, however, was something different. Many of the settlements in this New World were founded by people with conservative outlooks, such as the Puritans who made their colony in the Massachusetts Bay area. That led to an unfortunate incident in which a few young women who dared to dabble in the occult arts were charged with witchcraft, arrested, brought to trial, condemned and executed for their supposed crimes. While the men in charge of that colony were eventually criticized for causing more than a dozen executions, they faced no punishment. To those women who were seeking greater freedom and self-realization, the message was clear: the New World was shaping up to be very much like the old one. 

In a show of solidarity with their slain compatriots, some of the women founded a secret society that they called the Sisters of Salem. It is dedicated to preserving the study of magic and promoting the discovery of new relics and lore. At first they were forced to keep their activities complete hidden, but before long they devised a means of operating more openly—by founding a traveling theater company. That allowed them to move about with greater freedom, and to conduct some of their studies under the guise of research for various productions. Eventually the established a permanent base of operations, the New World Theater, modeled after Shakespeare's Globe. They named their group the Caliban Company, funding their eldritch investigations with profits from the staging of entertainment.

Profiled here are just a few of the prominent individuals who are part of this organization.

Zerelda Williams, the Scholar
If anyone can be called the leader of the company, it is Zerelda. She is the one who chooses the plays to be presented, researches them and then plans the productions. To that end she is almost always caught up in one text or another, be it eldritch in nature or something mundane. It's said that Zerelda hails from back east, and can trace her lineage to Salem at the end of the 17th Century.
Attributes: Agility d4, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Investigation d6, Knowledge d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d4, Spellcasting d6
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 2, Toughness: 5
Edges: Arcane Background (Sorcery), Ghost Sight, New Power
Hindrances: Bad Eyes (Minor), Small
Special Abilities
Power Points: 10; Powers: Detect/conceal arcana, dispel, grave speak, speak language
Gear: Comfortable clothing, various books, magical trappings and writing materials

Sophie Delacroix, the Dancer
The daughter of former slaves, Sophia grew up steeped in voodoo. At an early age she experiences having a loa take over her body, being “ridden” by it while dancing in a ritual. With that foundation, she began training for combat, and eventually found that she excelled at it. Thus she performs as a dancer for the Company, but also provides protection for her Sisters.
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d4, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Climbing d4, Fighting d6, Notice d4, Stealth d4, Throwing d6, Voodoo d6
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 5, Toughness: 5
Edges: Arcane Background (Voodoo), New Power
Hindrances: Impulsive, Obligation
Special Abilities
Power Points: 10; Powers: Armor, Deflection, Smite
Gear: Elaborate but loose-fitting costume, pair of knives (Range 3/6/12, Damage Str +d4+1, RoF 1), conjure bag

Margaret Jameson, the Artist
Although one wouldn't guess it by looking at her, this woman was raised on the American frontier, often surrounded by native people. He father is a famous painter and collector of Indian artifacts, and she followed him from post to post. In doing so she learned to connect with the spirits, and now brings that knowledge to share with her Sisters, whom she also serves in painting, sewing and the like.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d4
Skills: Healing d6, Knowledge d4, Notice d6, Streetwise d4, Survival d6, Tribal Medicine d6
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 2, Toughness: 5
Edges: Arcane Background (Shamanism), New Power
Hindrances: Curious
Special Abilities
Power Points: 10; Powers: Elemental Manipulation, Light/Obscure, Spirit Walk
Gear: Comfortable clothing, knife (Range 3/6/12, Damage Str +d4+1, RoF 1), totem (buffalo pouch)

The Inn at the Sign of the Masks
While the New World Theater provides a source of income for the Sisters of Salem, as well as a source of funding for its activities, most of the members reside at a nearby hotel, the Inn at the Sign of the Masks. It takes its name, naturally, from the famous symbol of the theater—two masks, emblematic of comedy and tragedy. Indeed, it can be recognized by a large sign hung out front, bearing those visages along with its name. 

The Inn itself is two stories in height. The first floor has a broad main room (1) filled with tables and chairs, and with a bar along the inside wall. Behind the bar a door leads to the kitchen (2), and further back to the pantry (3). There are also two small rooms (4) available for gatherings that require a little more privacy. 

Two stairways lead from the main room to the upper floor (5). Most of the rooms there (6) are furnished with a bed, a wardrobe and a small desk. There are also some rooms with two beds (7) for families.

Typical Inn Employees
Only some of the women at the Inn know about its connection to the Sisters of Salem. Those who are aware, in fact, likely came to work here in the hope of being accepted into that organization and, thus, to begin their own occult studies. Others are just ordinary women, some of whom also work for the Caliban Company and hope to gain fame through the theater.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Knowledge (Area) d4, Notice d8, Persuasion d6, Stealth d4, Streetwise d6
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 2, Toughness: 5
Edges: Alertness
Hindrances: Curious
Gear: Comfortable clothing, miscellaneous personal items.

Life at the Theater and the Inn
The Sisters of Salem and the Caliban Company can be used to introduce all manner of plot elements for adventures and campaigns; detailed below are just a few of the possibilities.
  • The PCs could just be paying a visit to the theater when they recognize that strange powers are wielded by the proprietors.
  • One of the PCs might be a perfect fit for playing a given role, and thus be recruited to become involved in the production.
  • When a murder occurs, the PCs could be called upon to help solve it. Failure could lead to the Sisters being unfairly persecuted, but success prevents it.
  • Given their interest in occult relics and lore, the Sisters could recruit the PCs to help them recover a particular text or item. Such, in fact, is the case with a certain obsidian mirror kept in a Mayan temple down in the Yucatan Peninsula...
  • Of course, the Sisters are also skilled at discovering information, and thus could be a useful resource for the PCs, too.
  • The same can be said for the Sign of the Masks, since it sees all manner of travelers passing through the city, bound inland to somewhere in America itself, or preparing to sail for some other part of the world.
  • Given the history of shipping in the region, it's a safe bed that at least one wrecked ship can be found nearby, its cargo hold filled with all manner of valuable goods, secret information, and the like...
  • It turns out that Angelica Smith, whom many believe to be an ordinary frontier doctor's wife, is a former Sister of Salem, but one who sought to use her magic for gaining power over others, and thus was expelled from the order.